Design Your How: Communicate and Educate

Design Your How: Communicate and Educate

Nov 13, 2012 Opinions

There’s no way around it: Designers are arrogant.

Well, good ones are at least. Which isn’t to say you should be arrogant, or that being arrogant will somehow make you a better designer (it won’t). But, as a general rule, good designers are just slightly full of themselves, and it’s part of what makes them good.

Creativity does, after all, take a lot of self-assurance, and solving problems in a functional way is something every good designer should be proud of, and be ready and able to defend.

But what happens when your client — or another team member — doesn’t understand or appreciate how hard it was for you to solve their problem? What happens when your client pushes back, they don’t like your idea, and no amount of self-assuredness is going to help them realize your brilliance?

Well. It’s tricky, and it takes a lot of patience, for one. But I have a couple other ideas for how to deal with this when it happens as well.

Communicate: Tell A Story

In the past I’ve written about making sure your client is aware of your deliverable schedule, and their schedule for getting you feedback about a design. But merely communicating the terms upon which you decide to conduct business is anything but inspiring.

You need to know how to sell your design decisions to a client. You need to learn how to tell them a story.

Don’t just tell them about the hours of research you did. Tell them about how moved you were by the stories of their customers, and how much you enjoyed learning about what they do. Don’t just tell them about how much sleep you lost making decisions about where to place a “buy” button. Tell them a story about how the placement of that buy button is going to help encourage sales (and, in turn, give them more happy customers!).

Rules and terms for business are important. But communicating a story through your design decisions is of the utmost importance because stories are what bring us together as people.

Tell a better story, and your clients will be more likely to buy into your designs.

Educate: Teach Them

It’s important to remember that your clients aren’t usually as smart as you when it comes to general aesthetics, and especially design theory and practice. Far too often, designers get frustrated because a client just “doesn’t understand” why the design choices they’ve made are good ones. Having encountered it many times myself, it can be, admittedly, very frustrating (ever tried explaining the off canvas navigation method in apps?).

Then again, their lack of knowledge about design is exactly the reason they hired you and it’s something you should be grateful for. So take the opportunity to educate your clients on what good design means. Share videos with them that talk about the benefits of good design, and encourage a conversation about how their product will be best served by some of the decisions you’ve made. After all, it’s not just a design.

It’s also worth noting that the world of design changes quickly. Trends come and go, and new technologies are introduced every day. So in order to properly educate your clients about good design, you have to be continually educating yourself. Read design books, follow design blogs, attend conferences and watch videos to further your own personal knowledge. Always stay on top of your advances being made in your field.

These suggestions for how to deal with a client or team member that’s not taking you seriously might seem a bit obvious to you.

Of course we need to tell a story through your design, and of course we need to educate our clients,” you might be thinking.

And you’d be right: They’re such simple things. But, often, at the end of the day, we’re prone to let the simple things go so quickly.

This is a reminder that design is but one solution to humanity’s tendency to make things more complicated than they really are. That good design is storytelling, and that education is always better than arrogance.

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